Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played with Puppets

Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played with Puppets

Kathleen Krull
Illustrator:  Steve Johnson , Lou Fancher 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Random House Books for Young Readers, 2011   ISBN: 978-0375857218

Growing up in Mississippi in the 1930’s, Jim Henson and his brother Paul learned how to entertain themselves. They fished and swam in the river, Jim studied the natural world around him, and he shared his stories with his beloved grandmother. Jim discovered that he liked to make people laugh, and he began to perform in school plays. He and his brother also listened to “action shows” on the radio, and they went to the movies on Saturday afternoons.

In 1950, Jim’s parents got their first television, and it wasn’t long before Jim was hooked on the shows that he watched. One show in particular caught his fancy. It was a puppet show, and soon Jim was experimenting with puppets. When he was sixteen, Jim got his first job working as a puppeteer for a TV show.

When he was in college Jim got his own TV show, and for the show he created fabric puppets that were more flexible and that could convey expressions. One of these new puppets was green frog. Jim called the frog Kermit, and he and a colleague decided to call their new puppets “Muppets.”

Jim and his Muppets were very popular, but his greatest success came about when he was invited to work on a children’s TV program that was going to be called Sesame Street. For the first time ever, puppets were used to help preschool children learn. It was a revolutionary idea, and Sesame Street became the “longest-running children’s program in history.”

There aren’t many people who have not laughed at Fozzie Bear’s jokes, or smiled at Kermit the frog’s face, or spent time with Bert and Ernie, Big Bird and the Cookie Monster. All of these characters, and Jim Henson’s other creations, have entertained and educated people of all ages for decades. This delightful book serves as a fitting tribute to a man who had a vision and an amazing amount of creativity. Throughout the book, wonderful illustrations compliment Kathleen Krull’s engaging and memorable narrative.